Mako Vunipola has finally recovered from the torn hamstring tendon he suffered in Saracens’ Champions Cup final victory in May, and could feature in England’s clash with Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.
The 28-year-old could not straighten his leg after surgery to fix the tendon back onto the bone, and so had to use crutches and a wheelchair en route to brother Billy’s wedding back in Tonga.
While the British and Irish Lions prop enjoyed his convalescence, he admitted some of those enlisted to help his mobility had their work cut out.
“In terms of bodyweight I’m near enough the lightest I’ve ever been,” said the elder Vunipola brother. “I feel good about that. Body conditioning-wise it’s one of those constant things for me, I’ve just got to keep working on that.
“In terms of fitness I feel very good. Match fitness is something different. We’ll see how I go on the weekend if I get the chance.
“I weigh 122kg now, and the lightest I’ve ever been was 121kg, in Australia in 2016.
“I tore the tendon at the top of hamstring so the muscle became detached from the bone, so they had to go back in and attach that back on.
“For two weeks I was not allowed to strain my hamstring.
“Unfortunately I went to Tonga in those two weeks so it was hard going round on crutches and watching what I eat.
“Luckily my family helped me through that.
“I could bend my knee but I couldn’t lie straight with it. The airport staff looked after me in Los Angeles on the way.
“I was in a wheelchair and some poor lady had to push me. She was struggling a bit!
“I asked, ‘Are you okay?’, and I owed her a big thank you.”
Vunipola is itching to get going after his latest injury setback, and now has the chance to chase full match sharpness, with England launching their World Cup campaign against Tonga on September 22.
He added: “I’m excited about being back playing, it’s been tough the last four to five weeks training by myself.
“We have talked about not wanting to take anything for granted.
“Every time I think I am alright, something else happens.
“It might be luck, it might be something else, but every day and every time I am training I have to make sure I am doing my best to improve and every time I play, play like it’s my last game.”